In 2009, the DC region was still on the cusp of being one of America’s great food cities, and, for the nation as a whole, turning utterly food crazed.
That was the year Maria Kopsidas opened Cookology, a recreational cooking school in Dulles. In the decade since Instagram let unicorn food fly around the world, and farmers markets opened in seemingly every neighborhood, would a new generation of food-obsessed parents raise better eaters?
“No,” Kopsidas says. She says it without hesitation. Kopsidas has watched thousands of 5-year-olds chop with spoons. She’s watched eyes pop open as 8-year-olds pick up a 7-inch chef’s knife for the first time.
“I think kids have always had the incredible curiosity of cooking,” Kopsidas says, who grew up in a Greek family of cooks and would batter and fry strips of eggplant on her own by age 8. It’s about that age, she says, when kids become less picky, (as they don’t have as many taste buds). She sees their minds working, she hears their questions: Why does batter become thick thanks to the beating of a hand-mixer? Why is vanilla extract brown but vanilla frosting is white?
Maybe it’s not Top Chef, MasterChef Junior and The Great British Bake Off that’s turned the next generation into automatic foodies. Maybe valuing food and the act of cooking is something of an innate urge, one that just needs to be coaxed and encouraged out.
Kopsidas is doubling-down on her efforts: This spring she opened another location of Cookology, 6,000 square feet above the redeveloped Ballston Quarter.
The range of classes—baking workshops, culinary boot camps, paleo-themed dinners, date nights, kid sushi—are similar to the original location’s offerings, but there’s more in store for Arlington, and not just the mixology classes (Dulles is beer and wine only).
Besides picking up new teaching talent—including longtime local chef Ed Hardy (Bacon N Ed’s food truck, Bistro Vivant); Christina Yanez, formerly of the Michelin-starred Masseria in DC; and Keshaun Winston, a DC local and a caterer to the elite of DC, including President Barack Obama and Mayor Marion Barry—Kopsidas is developing a professional-level certification program, an incubator program (for bakers, food truck owners and culinary entrepreneurs, who can also tap into business consulting from Kopisdas, a communications and marketing professional) and a pop-up space.
With kitchens built like real-life restaurants, she hopes to lure out-of-town chefs to try out the DC market and cook in front of new audiences, like, she says, how the James Beard House in New York City features top talent from around the country. Beard, of course, is more than a name synonymous with restaurant awards, he also taught cooking classes, wrote cookbooks and “became the focal point of the entire American food world.”
“People are hungry, no pun intended,” says Kopsidas. “People are looking for that hot, new thing that’s happening.” // Cookology: 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 21100 Dulles Town Circle, Sterling
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